Friday, July 6, 2018

How Societies Can Grow Old Better

Renowned author Jared Diamond uses traditional tribal societies to shine a light on modern social structure for older Americans.

How can older Americans find purpose and comfort in modern society? Jared Diamond, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his groundbreaking book Guns, Germs, and Steel uses his vast knowledge of traditional societies to inform how the monolithic cultures of today can provide better lives for its citizens in old age

Diamond says that tribal culture is actually more diverse than American culture, while cautioning against the extremes of romanticizing tribal life or viewing it as primitive and unworthy of our examination.

In tribal societies, Diamond says older adults in the community are valued for an array of talents:

  • Food production
  • Babysitting
  • Making tools, weapons, pots and textiles
  • Repositories of information for the whole tribe

They often live with relatives, or nearby, and maintain friendships over their lifetimes.

Conversely, Americans move an average of once every five years, distancing themselves from friends and relatives. The Protestant work ethic places a higher value on those of working age, while independence and self-reliance are glorified. To add insult to injury, a cult of youth in Western civilization puts older adults in advertisements for care centers but not, say, Coke.

However, Diamond sees three major areas where older adults shine in our current culture. Watch is short TED talk, above, to find out what these areas are.